Wiley Winter Roosters

February 15, 2009 by  

By Nick Simonson

I’ve never seen such wild roosters in my life. Between the games of family poker, the opening of stockings, and Christmas dinner there was holiday hunting, although it was more like a track meet with shotguns.

Closing the door on the pickup truck caused the end of the tree row, nearly one hundred yards away, to explode with gray and brown wings. The early morning crunch, or the late afternoon slop of a misplaced step on rapidly disappearing snow resulted in buckbrush exploding likeremote-triggered mines and feathers flying and alarm signals being crowed, alerting every other bird on the back forty.

It was tough, in fact the toughest hunting in my life. Thirty and forty yard shots were the norm as roosters streaked away in bronze blurs, rarely providing a chance at a crossing path.

I  ran steeple chase around the farm, hurdling fences, sprinting throughwheat stubble, and plowing through cattail sloughs. The seventy-foot railroad fill on the north end of the farm was the ultimate obstacle, as the pheasants would land at its base, run up over it, and down the other side. I only scaled it once. That was where I realized that THIS wasn’t hunting. THIS was the roosters’ revenge for all those easy seasons in the past few years.

Five of us put in anywhere from four to seven hours a day, every day including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (roosters don’t take holidays). Day one, one bird. Day two, two birds. Day three, four birds. Day four, two birds. I don’t normally play the numbers game but to show you how hard we worked, I actually left the farm weighing less than when I came in. Day one, 194 pounds. Day five, 192 pounds.That includes prime rib, turkey dinner, grandma’s sweets and caramel rolls and all sorts of traditional Christmastime goodies.

When we were lucky enough to get a rooster to hold, it either flushed with a smokescreen of hens, or I was doubled over in exhaustion to the point where even my shotgun shells were firing in slow motion. I missed my share of reasonable shots, and more than my share of unreasonable shots, however, each bird I hit (four in all, including a grouse) was a little reminder of how rewarding a hard hunt can be.
The family farm, just outside of Watford City was the same place where in 2003, without a dog, a person couldn’t walk more than 30 feet without kicking up a bird. Now, if you walked thirty feet, you were lucky if the birds weren’t in Belfield by the end of the next thirty.

It was different, it was exciting, but most of the time just plain exhausting. The fifty degree days made it feel like October, but the disappearing act the birds were pulling definitely confirmed that it was the end of the season. Even the dogs got a workout, chasing wild scent and flushing the hens that held tight while the roosters bolted. Looking back now, it was a great experience, though the sweat on my brow and the battery acid in my legs after a half-mile sprint at the time suggested otherwise. (I’m sure you’re replaying me running down a sectionline right now and laughing.)

But at Christmas, there’s no place I would have rather been…in our outdoors.


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